- Is the gambling of someone dear to you creating anxiety and worry?
- Are you having financial problems due to the gambling of a loved one or family member?
- Are you worried about the emotional health and/or financial security of a loved one who is gambling?
Social gambling is very much like social drinking. Most people can do it occasionally without any problem. But compulsive gambling is a progressive illness, much like alcohol or drug addiction. It may start as social gambling but at some point, it progresses to compulsive gambling, resulting in poor health, ruined relationships, financial trouble, and other problems.
Gambling and casinos are everywhere now in tribal communities, leading to an increase in problem gambling among Native people. Gambling addiction extends beyond the gambler. Family members and friends can be severely impacted by the problem gambler's behaviors and activities.
Often, only loved ones of the problem gambler will ever know about the problem because it affects the most personal aspects of their lives: relationships, home life, professional life, and finances. Because the effects of problem gambling are not as outwardly visible as drug or alcohol use, problem gamblers may be able to hide their behaviors for a long time.
Here are some things to look for to determine if someone in your life is a compulsive gambler:
- Spending more time gambling than any other activity
- Secretive or lying about money and/or gambling
- Mood swings
- Unaccounted blocks of time
- Neglecting personal needs or responsibilities
- Claiming a sudden need for money or loans
- Boasting to others about winning, often minimizing or denying losses and exaggerating wins
- Missing work or school due to gambling
- Arguing with spouse, partner, other family members, or friends due to gambling
- Experiencing behavioral or personality changes when watching or listening to sports
- Having difficulty sleeping or eating
Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? Perhaps you have experienced some of these in your own life with someone who gambles.
The compulsive gambler, like most addicts, has a very difficult time admitting there is a problem. Gamblers claim they can stop at any time. There may be periods that they do stop; however, for the compulsive gambler, this is nearly always temporary. Compulsive gamblers frequently do not want to discuss counseling, therapy, or self-help programs. To do so means admitting there is a problem and that change needs to occur.
Sometimes, family members and loved ones contribute to this behavior. Because they feel powerless to confront the gambler, they remain silent. The fear of the unknown can be paralyzing for many people, and they stay in painful familiar situations rather than make changes.
Family members and friends are severely impacted by the compulsive gambler's behaviors and activities. They feel worn out and feel they have tried everything. They feel their situation is hopeless and that nothing will work.
In fact, it is true that others cannot change the problem gambler. Change must come from a desire within the problem gambler if it is to last.
However, there is a world of hope for you and other loved ones. No matter how difficult things may seem, change is possible. Those closest to the problem gambler must first rescue themselves. They can then be there to lend a hand to the problem gambler when and if the time and opportunity arrives.
SOME SUGGESTIONS (SELECTED AND ADAPTED FROM GAM-ANON)
- Accept and learn to live with the fact that compulsive gambling is an illness that cannot be cured, but with recovery, the gambler can have meaningful abstinence.
- The gambler, not you, should be responsible for calling the gambler's creditors to make restitution. Don't enable the gambler by taking this responsibility away from him or her.
- It is not helpful to the gambler to borrow money or co-sign notes to cover gambling debts while the gambler is gambling or even when the gambler is in recovery.
- It is not recommended that anyone pay any gambling debts or the gambler's living expenses. This is the responsibility of the gambler.
- Recovery is a slow process for the gambler. Give the gambler your encouragement and have faith in the recovery process.
- Attend Gam-Anon or find someone, perhaps a professional, to help you cope with the issues that surface due to the gambling and accompanying behaviors.
- To question or interrogate the gambler will serve no purpose. You are powerless to stop the gambler. If the gambler has something the gambler wishes to hide, the truth cannot be forced from the gambler. It only causes us emotional distress to try.
- Compulsive gamblers are seldom able to handle finances. Perhaps this condition will be altered as the gambler progresses towards recovery.
- The past is gone. Peace of mind can be found when the past is accepted without resentment.
For help, call 1-800-522-4700 for a 24-hour free confidential hotline and/or visit the National Council on Problem Gambling www.ncpgambling.org to find resources in your city or state.
Some of the information above was adapted from the Florida Council on Problem Gambling: http://gamblinghelp.org
Consider attending the Native Wellness Institute’s Problem Gambling Awareness and Prevention Training on May 20-22 in Tulalip, Washington. The training is the first of its kind. Click on the image link below to find out more and register.